|Game Review: Strat-O-Matic Baseball|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on February 23, 2003
Contents of box: Player Cards, Charts, Dice, Boards, baserunner tokens.
By: Strat-O-Matic Game Co.
Strat-O-Matic is probably the oldest continuously published baseball simulation in the world, and currently in its 42rd season. It’s easy. It’s fun, and its complexity can vary based upon the levels of the players involved. It’s so easy and so popular that you can play it online for the onerous price of $24.95 per team through The Sporting News’ website. Or you can walk into your local game store and get a computer or board game copy for less, about $50, which you can play with your friends just about forever. I like the hard copy with all the cards myself. I feel it keeps you more involved.
The game is statistically driven and is based upon the numbers players put up in a specific previous season. Each season has its own cards, and each set comes with one complete seasons worth of cards (either virtual or real depending upon which version you buy). Each card represents a major league player. You can play with cards from different seasons, or eras, and even play with some of the greatest teams of all times against your modern favorites, depending on which cards you have and who you want to use.
Some people, myself included, will even do a simulated season with a group of friends using rotisserie style drafting or auctions and then playing a complete 162 game season. This is easy since a game usually is under 30 minutes on average and you can complete a ten game set in an afternoon. A full season can be played over about 9-10 weeks, with no more than an afternoon per week used for playing.
However, in its basic set, you get every major league baseball team and the players who made up their roster. The game has two versions contained within - a simplified basic game which eliminates many variables, and an advanced game which includes factors like hitting against lefties and righties, bunting, sacrifices, errors, injuries and even pitchers getting tired (and thus less effective).
The game uses a handful of charts printed on decent quality stock, a game board (which shows the baseball diamond) which is really only used to show where base runners are, base runner tokens, and three six sided dice and one 20 sided die.
The game system itself is direct, simple, and quite clever. Each hitter’s card is divided into three columns (columns numbered 1, 2, and 3), and each pitcher’s card has columns numbered 4, 5, and 6. Each column has number ratings which range from 2-12. The three dice included in the set have one of one color, and two of another. All three dice are rolled, and the results are plugged into the rating numbers on the cards to determine outcomes.
As far as the calculations go, the single die tells us which column to look at (1, 2, or 3 on the hitter’s card, or 4, 5, or 6 on the pitcher’s card). The total of the other two dice is added, and the result is checked in the column indicated by the other die. The column gives a result for the play, or indicates that a type of play has occurred which requires further analysis. For example, the column may indicate a strikeout, home run, single with runners advancing an extra base, or it might indicate that a certain type of play occurs - this is called an “X play.” The X play takes the player’s rating into account, and a role of the 20 sided die, to determine if they make a great throw, terrific play, or even take an extra base.
The basic game is extremely playable. However, playing in advanced mode brings it to another level - the level a truly great major league baseball game. Among other things, it limits the power of weak hitters, uses lefty-righty statistics, includes pitcher endurance, pick-offs and balks, bringing the outfield in, and similar plays to make the game as realistic as possible.
This is possibly the best baseball board game of all time. It’s so simple that anyone with a grasp of baseball can be taught the basics in 5 minutes, and can pick up the rules of the advanced game in perhaps 20. If at some point the publishers decide to send a copy of the computer or online version for reviews, I’ll take a look at that too.
Give the board game a 4 out of 4 for realism and playability, but don’t assume the online or computer game will be anywhere as good - I’ll let you know what I think of them if I find out.
Our Rating System is based on a four ball system as follows:
One Ball: Average. Playble but is nothing special.
Two Balls: Something men usually have - also means its a cut above average, and worth playing.
Three balls: Stands out from its peers and is highly recommended.
Four Balls: More than just what two men have when hanging out together, it means it is an exceptional game that truly earns a walk - straight to the local game store to get a copy.
* Strat-O-Matic is a trademark of the Strat-O-Matic Game Company.